As part of a collaboration between Punahou’s Wo International Center and seventh grade social studies and English teachers, students donned virtual reality (VR) headsets to visit a Syrian refugee camp, getting a 360-degree view of life at the camp. 

“The immersive nature of VR and the way it allows for a sense of physical presence is completely different than watching a movie or reading an article,” said Robyn Borofsky ’99 Vierra, Director of Global Education at Wo Center, adding that such lessons help foster understanding and empathy of refugees across the world. 

“Empathy is about closing the gap between us and them, and that is exactly what VR can do,” Vierra said, noting research at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. This type of learning fits strongly within the social awareness area of Punahou’s Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEEL) framework. 

Along with the VR experience, students connected on Zoom with a Syrian refugee who is currently displaced in Italy to learn more about the obstacles refugees face.

Seventh graders use VR goggles in Lauren Gibson’s class to take a look inside a Syrian refugee camp.

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